Nurse's WWII recollections
FIRST she helped them pin on their medals, then she gently strapped on their legs.
It was April 25, 1946 – the first Anzac Day service after the Second World War – and Jess Devine was a nurse at the Repatriation Hospital near Randwick in Sydney.
Most of her patients had suffered horrific injuries during the war and were in various stages of recovery, but none wanted to miss the service in Martin Place.
“Those boys had a great sense of humour,” Mrs Devine said. “It was got them through those dark days.
“They strapped on their legs, and mates pushed other mates in wheelchairs and they went to that first service to remember those who didn't make it home.”
She said as well as Second World War soldiers, the hospital also cared for several badly injured First World War survivors.
For the young nurse from outback Queensland, it was a stark reminder of the brutality of war.
“I come from a long line of servicemen and women, so I knew about war,” Mrs Devine said.
“My father was shot by a German sniper in World War I and returned home with a shrapnel injury to his face.
“Though he and his cobbers never dwelt on the terrible things that happened to them.
“They remembered instead the practical jokes they played and the mates they made on the frontline.”
Yet she admits working with those traumatised and physically damaged by war was often challenging.
“Some of these boys had been prisoners of war and they had fattened them up for a fortnight at Gordonvale before they sent them down to us,” Mrs Devine said.
“But they were still thinner and in a worse state than many concentration camp survivors from Europe.
“However we didn't focus on that too much, we just worked on getting them well and back to their families.
“I worked in a lot of places after that, but there was never any place as special as that hospital for me.”
Yesterday at a special Anzac Day Service at Akooramak she recalled the young soldiers she knew, who gallantly gave their lives for freedom.
“They were young men and life meant a lot to them, but they fought so those whom they loved could live freely,” Mrs Devine said. “This is a time for remembering.”